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RSO hosts advocacy

Posted on 03.27.2013

The University of Indianapolis registered student organization Active Minds held a To Write Love On Her Arms event to discuss mental health on March 20.

Second-year student in the clinical psychology doctoral program Amanda McErlean said that Active Minds brought TWLOHA to campus because its goals are similar to those of the Active Minds.

“Some of our goals are to reduce stigma around mental illness and make students more aware of the resources that are available and to open up the conversation a little bit about mental illness,” McErlean said. “It seemed like To Write Love on Her Arms really matched up well with our goals, so we wanted to expose the campus to that.”

Mental Health counselor Aaron Moore came to speak at UIndy about the nonprofit organization TWLOHA and started a discussion about depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

“To Write Love started almost seven years ago,” Moore said. “It really was started to help a friend.”

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the organization, started it in the spring of 2006 by writing a story about a friend struggling with depression, addiction and self-injury. It began as a Myspace page and selling T-shirts to friends to help Tworkowski’s friend with treatment. But it has become something larger and has reached an audience broader than Tworkowski anticipated.

The mission statement on the TWLOHA website says, “To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

The Wednesday night event started with an introduction of Moore and Active Minds. Following the introduction, Active Minds showed a video of news clips about TWLOHA and Tworkowski speaking about the mission of the organization.

After the video, Moore stepped up to talk. Instead of standing on the stage and behind a podium, he stood on the floor in front of the audience. He began by talking about TWLOHA and how it began with Tworkowski and his friends.

Moore and his wife met Tworkowski soon after he started TWLOHA.

“It [TWLOHA] was just something that we really connected with,” Moore said. “As therapists, things like addiction, depression and self-injury are things that we work with all the time. But they were also things that we were actually having conversations around our kitchen table with friends of ours and family members who we were supporting and caring for.”

After he spoke about the history and mission of TWLOHA, Moore started a discussion. He asked the audience why people might be afraid to begin a conversation about the struggles they are experiencing. Audience members responded with many different answers, but they were similar in that they were things that everyone thought.

Following his first question, Moore asked why people are afraid to approach someone who they think might be struggling. Again, the audience responded with different answers.

Moore pointed out that the fears that audience members said they had in telling others they had a problem were the same fears that people had in asking if someone was struggling.

To Write Love on Her Arms is a mental health nonprofit with products that support its mission. Photo contributed by Amanda McErlean

The point of the discussion started was just that—to get a discussion started. Moore pointed out  that no one really talks about depression and addiction.

“These topics are so heavy anyway, and so they are things that we automatically resist talking about and automatically avoid,” Moore said. “If there are things that we can’t really acknowledge, and things we consistently avoid, then it becomes really almost impossible to find recovery and healing.”

As he finished the evening, Moore asked the audience whether they knew anyone who was going through or had gone through those struggles. Almost unanimously, audience members raised their hands. Moore pointed out that although depression, addiction and self-injury are so common, we do not know much about them, and we do not talk about them.

McErlean said that one-in-four people struggle with mental illness.

“It’s [mental illness] something that is very prevalent, and there is a lot of stigma surrounding it,” McErlean said. “We [Active Minds] feel like it’s important that people feel comfortable talking about problems that they are having, or comfortable approaching friends and seeking out the resources that they need so that they can have the best experience in college that they want and in their future as well.”


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